Apart from developing suitable varieties with high yield potential, evolving proper management practices such as tillage, seeding, fertilizer application, plant protection, irrigation, drainage, harvesting, threshing, cleaning, drying, storage and post-harvest processing of grains and by-products is very essential for increasing production and productivity in large areas. Application of engineering principles for reducing energy requirement in the form of human, animal, mechanical and electrical power is necessary to reduce cost of production. Efficient tools and implements are to be designed to reduce drudgery of human and animals and to reduce time and cost. Better water management practices are to be adopted for economic use of available water. Appropriate post-harvest practices for cleaning, grading, drying, processing and storage are needed to improve the quality of food grain and by-products.

With the above objectives in view, the Division of Agricultural Engineering was created at the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack in the year 1959. In the beginning, work was initiated to design and develop small hand tools and animal drawn implements for rice cultivation. A few promising implements developed elsewhere in the country and abroad were tested for adoption under FAO & RNAM programme. Testing of various types of transplanter were also taken up. Subsequently, collaborative work with the divisions of Agronomy and Agricultural Chemistry were taken up. Work on rice technology to study quality aspects of rice was started during Third Five Year Plan period. Since 1975, the activities of the division were diversified to include work on soil and water management, post-harvest technology and farm implements and machinery and instrumentation. Besides Institute projects on the aforesaid aspects three All India Coordinated Projects were designed of which (i) Energy Requirement in Agriculture Sector, (ii) Renewable sources of Energy (Solar, wind and biogas) and (iii) Post-harvest Technology are also operating in the Division.

The various activities of the division can be classified as under : (i) Design and development, (ii) Testing and evaluation, (iii) Consultancy to farmers, manufacturers and rice processing units, (iv) Instrumentation, (v) Repair and maintenance of farm implements, tube wells, pumps and farm structure, and (vi) Training to farmers, artisans, entreprenurers.

Development of improved farm implements and machinery

Seed drills for dry sowing of rice

Manual, bullock-drawn and tractor-drawn and seed-cum fertilizer drills were developed for line sowing of rice for wet and dry seeding. These machines save seed, fertilizer and labour in sowing of crops along the rows and help in weeding and inter-culture operation.

Implements for puddling

In order to reduce human and bullock energy needed for cumbersome puddling operation, bullock-drawn float disc harrow was developed. Two operations of float-harrow are sufficient to create field conditions ready for transplanting of seedlings.

Improved leveller

An improved bullock-drawn leveller was developed for levelling rice field. This covers more acerage compared to conventional levellers. It also helps crumbling of solid clods under wet conditions.

Improved weeders

For reducing labour requirement in weeding and to reduce human drudgery, improved finger weeder, paddy wheel hoe and blade and roller type weeder were developed. These are cheap hand tools which reduce labour requirement by 50- 75% and were found to be ergonomically suitable for local labour.

A low cost paddy power thresher (1 hp size), 1.0 m vertical conveyer reaper and tractor fitted reaper winnower were evaluated and found suitable for harvesting and threshing crops.

Tractor harvester for rice

A vertical conveyor reaper (3 cm width) was tested in CRRI fields for harvesting rice. This harvester used in wheat farming also performed well in rice fields. The harvester cuts the sheaves and leaves them in the field in rows to be gathered and transported later on. However, the need for further strengthening some of the mechanical parts like the bracket that keeps in position the idler pulley and the rearmost pulley has been realized. The mechanical and other harvesting looses were minimal. It harvests one hectare of crop in about 4 hours. The operating cost of the machine worked out to be Rs. 475/ per hectare as against approximately Rs. 675/- per hectare by manual harvesting.

Energy requirements in agricultural sector

Studies on energy requirements are being carried out to identify energy efficient implements/system for the cultivation of paddy and other important crops of region. Total energy requirements for the cultivation of paddy was estimated to be in the order of 9,000 to 10,000 MJ/ha. Studies are also being carried out to find out the energy utilization pattern and wasteful uses of energy on farmer's field in Orissa. Energy utilization in farmer's field for greengram, blackgram, groundnut and sugarcane cultivation was in the order of 3100, 3000, 8700, 58000 MJ/ha, respectively. For all these crops, field preparation consumed maximum energy. There is need to make it energy efficient. Component-wise, with tractor as the source of power, diesel and fertilizer put together contributed 75% of total energy requirement for rice cultivation. With bullock as the source of power, bullock and human energy put together contributed about 55% of total energy required for rice cultivation.

Biogas plant

A low cost battery type digester for production of biogas was developed for use in villages for small farm holdings.

Improved post-harvest processes, equipment and storage structure

Mini parboiling unit

A small rice parboiling unit of 75 kg capacity for use at farmers' level was designed, developed and is being introduced among the farmers. The unit is simple in construction and employs an improved method of parboiling giving better quality rice especially at farmers’ level.

Sun drying racks

Sun drying racks made with a base of wire-mesh for better drying as compared to floor or roadside drying were designed and evaluated to produce seed and grain which is free from contaminants. The racks can be joined in series, Three such racks constitute one set to hold 37.5 kg of paddy. This unit is very suitable for small farmers to dry his grains away from the roadside thereby avoiding any traffic hazard.

Nanda bin

Storage bins using burnt clay rings of 1 tone capacity were designed for use at farmers' level. These improved storage structures are cheap and efficient in storage of paddy. The structure meets most of the scientific requirements. It is structurally sound, safe from rat and moisture, and can be sealed for fumigation. The simplicity of the design enables the village artisans to construct these bins by themselves. Paddy stored for 10 months have proved to be quite safe from both quality and quantity point of view.

Community grain dryer

A 1-tone capacity re-circulating type community grain dryer using a portion of solar energy, husk fired furnace was developed. This dryer can dry 1 tone freshly harvested paddy with 24% moisture content to 14 % moisture content in 6.5 hours.

Solar rice bran stabilizer

A solar bran stabilizer of 20 kg/hr capacity has been developed as an alternative to steam stabilizing of bran in rice mills. The unit operates on the principle of dry heating of bran particles. the system allows the bran particles to be continuously stirred, heated uniformly with sun’s radiation and conveyed along the trough. The bran thus heated at 105-110oC for 5 min gets stabilized and stores safely for at least 20 days without further rise in free fatty acid content.

Research on milling quality of rice

Studies on milling quality such as head rice recovery, bran content etc. of newly released varieties of rice and land races were undertaken and information provided.

Research in the field of soil and water conservation engineering

Method of irrigation

Studies conducted for evolving design criteria for different methods of irrigation for efficient use of water indicated that maximum water-use efficiency for rice can be obtained with check basins with size in between 250-300 m2 area.

Recycling of run-off water

A new method for recycling run-off water in flood-irrigated rice was developed by which 10% additional area can be irrigated with recycled water. In command areas of Mahanadi delta where field to field irrigation is practiced, many recycling structures are in use for reusing drainage water. A study at Sirilo and Nabang revealed that recycling structures are cost effective having benefit cost ratio ranging from 1.5 to 1.7 bringing additional area under irrigation, i.e. 52 ha and 855 ha, respectively in the study areas during both the seasons.

Channel lining

A mixture of fly ash from thermal plant and potter's clay with 50% cement was found to be a suitable lining material for field channels. Plastic lining was also tried for the field channel. A length of 58 m of field channel was lined with plastic in B block of CRRI farm . It has been found to work satisfactorily for the past two years. This technology has been transferred to farmers’ field at Bhairpur. This has enabled the farmer to cover one-tenth of area more for vegetable cultivation during the dry season.

Pre-cast structures for water management

Pre-cast structures for water management work under different land situations were developed which improve water-use efficiency by about 50%.

Effect of land preparation of water use

The effect of land preparation on crop water use was investigated. It was observed that one ploughing by mould-board plough and puddling twice by disc harrow gave the best result in terms of crop establishment, water use efficiency and yield.

Solar voltaic pump

A solar photo-voltaic pumping system of 300 watt power gave discharge of 40 litres of water per minute. The unit was evaluated for its feasibility. Though the initial cost is high, it can meet the requirements of vegetable gardening where availability of electricity or diesel is remote.

Water distribution from canal

Study on equitable water distribution and efficient water-use efficiency by canal irrigation revealed that perpendicular orientation of field channel to main supply was superior to parallel orientation. The interval between outlets should be 425-450 meters rotation areas for parallel orientation and 650-700 m for perpendicular orientation. On farm development work should start from tail end area to achieve higher water use efficiency for the project.

Spacing of tube wells

Research on optimization of spacing of tube wells in alluvial soils of Mahanadi delta indicated that 150 meter minimum spacing is required to avoid mutual interference of tube wells, and to minimize cost of tube well project in the delta area.

Axial flow pump

A low head high discharge axial flow (propeller type) pump (5 hp size) was developed for irrigation and drainage of excess water.

Bamboo tube well

Studies were conducted in use of cheap bamboo tube wells in Mahanadi delta. Solid bamboo pipes and solid bamboo strainers of 10 cm diameter with 10-12% surface perforation were used for this purpose. Bamboo stainers were used in non-fluctuating watertable zones and were found to have a life of 8-10 years.

Water management in flood-prone and deep-water areas

Experiments were conducted in farmers' fields in flash flood and deep-water areas for production of rice. Studies were conducted related to better seed rate, time of sowing, screening of varieties, fertilizer placement and plant protection measures for optimum production of rice.

Water management in coastal saline areas

Experiments were conducted in farmers' fields for screening of suitable varieties, green manuring, fertilizer placement and community nursery. Problem of sand casting was investigated in Baliapal area of Balasore district in Orissa.

Rice-based cropping system in rainfed upland areas

Different low water requiring vegetables and pulses were grown in Kuakhia area of Jaipur district in Orissa by creating water resources through drainage recycling and dugout pits. A portion of this water was utilized as a life saving irrigation in rice at flowering stage to minimize sterility. For effective control of weeds in rice fields, pre-emergence herbicides with a manual weeding was found to be most cost effective.

A water harvesting structure of capacity 40 m2 was constructed with alpha-DPE film lining all along having a micro watershed of 0.3 ha. The collected run off water was utilized in the dry season to raise a good tomato crop (44.3 t/ha) in an area of 286 m2.

Irrigation methods for rice-based crops

In rice-based cropping environment, tomato as vegetable and groundnut as oil seed crop proved to be an attractive possibility after rice with less amount of water and sometimes with residual moisture. A study on method of irrigation for tomato showed that in alternate furrow irrigation, water use efficiency is highest in comparison to flooding and all furrow irrigation, with insignificant difference in yield. In case of groundnut, critical stage for irrigating the plot is found to be flowering to pod formation stage.